The baseball team faces its second Big Ten opponent of the season when it battles the Penn State Nittany Lions this weekend.
The last time Miami fans saw the Nittany Lions was on the football field, when the Hurricanes shellacked Penn State 33-7 in 2001.
Miami is ranked fifth in the nation and has had success as of late. The hitting has been consistent all season, but starting pitching has been a concern for the coaching staff. Lately, Dan Touchet and Cesar Carrillo have provided some stability at the top of the rotation.
“They will only get stronger,” Head Coach Jim Morris said. “Touchet has stepped into that Friday night role and that’s not easy because the Friday night pitcher is expected to win every time they go out and pitch. At least that’s what I expect.”
The Hurricanes earned themselves a sweep of Illinois-Chicago this past weekend and split with South Florida in a midweek series in Tampa Bay. The ‘Canes had won 11 games in a row before the loss on March 16.
“I am pleased with the way we are playing,” Morris said. “Our rotation is coming around, but we can’t get too satisfied because everyday is a new day.”
Penn State enters the series with an 8-6 record and is riding a three-game winning streak. It swept Richmond in a two game series and then defeated Bucknell on Tuesday. Its last loss was a 10-1 defeat at the hands of Arizona.
For the ‘Canes to beat Penn State, they need to continue getting production from guys like Jon Jay, who leads the team in average.
“Jay is playing really well,” Morris said. “You don’t expect a freshman to be hitting .400 but he is doing things to help us win games.”
This is an important series for the Hurricanes because the team has a very tough April in front of them.
“We are an independent, so the games this weekend are important,” Morris said. “If we lose to Penn State, it hurts us more from an RPI standpoint than losing to Florida State.”
The ‘Canes hit the road for six straight games starting in Georgia Tech the first weekend of April, and then they travel to Tallahassee to face the Seminoles. After that, the Seminoles come to Coral Gables for a three game series. The Hurricanes close out the month with ACC’s Virginia and then meet Coastal Carolina on April 30. With big games looming, the Nittany Lions are a team the Hurricanes could easily overlook.
“You can never look past an opponent,” Carrillo said. “This is a tougher series than Florida State or Georgia Tech because you know you’ll be ready to play them. Games like the ones this weekend make or break your season.”